Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Truth about Magic

Magic, of course, is real and happening all around us. Magic is much more pervasive than we often think. We take it for granted a lot.

One consequence of taking magic for granted is that we do not realize how much difficulty, hard work and sacrifice is involved. Most of the time this heaviness is borne by a cosmic property of our very environment. Where is the balancing hard work that supports the graceful spider's web, for example? It is distributed through the natural universe and carried by the fierceness of the world's that eats and decomposes all around us all the time. We humans mostly do not see this, though it seems certain we are able to.

We can become much more involved in magic than we usually are. Prophets and artists and leaders carry great magic in their movements. A casual survey of biographies will attest to the profound and ubiquitous burdens that accompany their granduer.

Not everyone is interested in this route, of course, but many become parents over the course of their lives and even the hardest-harted among us cannot but be touched by the immediacy of magic present in child-rearing. Oh but what a weight it is sometimes, and for those unprepared, or who have wandered outside of the structures built by successive generations to help us bear the burden of this magic, well, this can be a challenge undreamt of.

Everyone has some magic in thier lives. The challenges of exposing people to their own magic is especially acute in this day when so many of the devoted magical thinkers are often acting in anger and fear, trying to destroy the Truth that we are all interconnected. People are hard at work attacking science today, and the struggle between science and magic has been well documented. Our challenge, if we are intitiates (for lack of a better word), is to bring the magic of our lives in a way that transcends this conflict.

Science is not immoral but amoral, and the conflict with the magical aspect of reality comes with the misapprehension of the role that science plays in the larger framework of our knowing. We can know and ackowledge science while revivifying the magic of our roots in reality.

We can find a deeper truth if we are bold in our dreaming, but we will have to bear a burden of unusual measure, for ours are interesting times, and the fabric of society is being rent and rewoven daily, and often by our own hands. Thus we had better be serious about building our capacity for energetic movement. Oh what a thing that is.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The coming bad news.

Sooner or later the US will be getting out of Iraq. Everybody today wants to debate whether we should stay as long as possible or leave as quickly as we can. This is all a lot of naive foolishness.

Our option, singular, is to treat our withdrawal as a military operation. Mobilization needs to be prepared for as soon as possible, since right now everybody's unpacked and sitting on their butts in camp barracks. The sooner everybody starts getting ready to leave, the more practice and preparation (always needed before any major US military operation) they can get. Also, it is going to be necessary to develop a plan for maintaining a force presence throughout the withdrawal, because make no mistake about it, this is far more a retreat than a withdrawal.

If, as politics in Washington would have it today, we treat this as a political maneuver, then we are going to see a drastic spike in casualties during the withdrawal maneuvers. As far as that goes, the better option for the lives of the troops is that we don't leave until after 2008 since we all know that Cheney and Rummy are completely indifferent if not hostile to military officers running the military. As far as the U.S. and the Dems are concerned, though, it would be better if it happens before 2008, since even if a new (hopefully Dem) administration does a relatively good job, we all know the VCM (Very Conservative Media) will slag the shit out of them.

Or, of course, if we got a new Repuglican administration in 08, maybe we would hear a great chorus of cheering for whatever they did, good or not.

Domestic politics aside, however, just remember that this is not about what Iraq looks like after we leave. In fact I suspect the situation in Iraq post-occupation will turn out to have very little with how we conducted the end of our operations there, and far more to do with what is done by al Sistani, the Kurds and others, who doubtless know that nothing they do will be for keeeps until after we leave.

But don't take my word for it, read what Juan Cole has to say and draw your own conclusions. Even though his thoughts aren't precisely along the same lines, he certainly gives a flavor for context that can't be denied.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Oh! Oh! Oh, it makes me so MAD!!

Here is a story, which though you are familiar with, you should read.

From the NY Observer:
“We just did this huge film about torture,” Mr. Kirk continued. “We called all the people who worked at Abu Ghraib—the military police, military-intelligence people, officers. Many, many of them said no reporter had ever contacted them. This was a public list; this was not a secret list. It’s basic journalism—I call one guy and say, ‘Who else can I talk to?’ He gives me two more names. And that person gives me four more names. They also said they had not been contacted by anyone in journalism.”

So the war, in its bloodless version, fails to disturb the national media mind.

“I don’t think the networks have been able to create a narrative or mythology for the war,” said Ron Simon, the television curator for the Museum of Television and Radio. “For a narrative, you have to have an answer to Norman Mailer’s famous question, ‘Why are we here?’ Two years later, they’re still struggling to ask that question.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Cabal of Morons

"We cannot go any further, the limit has been breached!"
"No! We must go further, there can be no limits when we are the
(cue theme musik)

Actors of History!"

"Oh, yeah. Uh... Which way we goin again?"

....chapter 2, in which we join our hero...

Jason and his Petronaughts aimed their SUV at the desert horizon.
"To victory!" They cried, mad drunk on benzene and coke.
They hurtled forwards, spewing foul exhaust behind them, soon to be lifeless bodies of poor children bouncing off their titanium logo-encrusted hood.
More and more forwards they hurtled. Ever onwards, hurltling and hurlting and hurtling.
"The horizon, muttered one of them, "It does not get closer."
Bounce! went the traitor, bounce, bounce, and into the dust he receded.
"To victory!!" They cried, and one bruised his head as the Grand Old SUV hit a pothole, had IEDs and RPGs thrust rudely at it.
"Man the gates! The liberals attack!" they cried, and the SUV hurtled on.
"To victory!" they cried, and surely there were cheers. Ringing and the benzene-coke haze made them hard to make out, and of course the windows must be tinted for security, but surely, surely there was cheering!
"To victory!" they cried.
"Aye! Cap'n! There's a fierce storm a'brewin!" came the report, and sure enough, the horizon could no longer be seen. "But, we're lost!" cried a traitor, and he disappeared into the howling winds.
"To victory!" they cried. "Who here needs a compass?" snarled the dreaded first mate. "We have a moral compass, and we can smell victory!"
"To victory!!!" they roared with their power- WHAM! "Man overboard!" went the cry, and "Fitzmas! Dear God, oh dear God!" went the praying.
The praying and wailing went on for some time. It was a time, a time, no small time, without a cheer. The horizon could not be seen! "The first mate!, Oh God!" went one, and it was true, he had his thumscrew kit out and some other things-
"To victory!" they cried, and "Oh, God! To victory!!"

...to be continued...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The distance and the difference.

"Reagan Democrats" were probably mostly two groups: one young, one old. the younger group consisted of follower youth, associated with the hedonistic heyday of the 60's and 70's.

A sense of philosophic conviction opposed to discrimination and in favor of individual liberties ruled the day. This was vague, prone to inconsistancies (such as the sexual objectfication frequently woven into concepts of "sexual liberation") but expected, and so many followed suit. When youthful indiscretions began to pile up, and the reality of personal responsibility for the future pushed people to search for a way to live the rest of their lives, the easiest models involved moves to a much more conservative world view. They moved to the suburbs, moved back to the suburbs, or what have you.

The older group were probably mostly New Deal/JFK Dems who were never interested in cultural revolution, and remembered the iconic days of Camelot and saw Morning in America as an idealistic echo of those themes. That these folks were all too willing to ignore the hypocrisies and failings of the Reagan White House speaks a powerful lesson about what I will call "social consciousness fatigue." This can be expressed as a relatively simple eqution:

Social change is possible proportionately relative to the ratio of present discomfort to social consciousness fatigue, less the percieved immediacy of downward mobility due to social upheaval, but where that factor can be violently flipped towards change if downward mobility becomes percieved as inevitable.
(We are in a very interesting place right now where systemic crisis is becoming perceptble -a dynamic that would be even too much a digression- slowly enough that we may be able to benefit from it, where it has more often historically proved calamitous.)

In any case, it is these older "Reagan Dems" who are now reaping the ill seeds of their willingness to be decieved, for it is they who cannot imagine that we would torure.

The demographic swing much noted lately on the blogs, whereby torture is becoming permissable, is due to the transition of social prominence (think in terms of who gets marketed to) from the elder group of Reagan Democrats to the younger. The elder group ( and their contemporaries would never condone torture because there is a much greater sense of the importance of philosophical underpinnings of a society within this group. This is of course largely due to the awakening to our own capacity for cruelty, post WWII. Call it the "but they're like us" cognitive dissonance of western upper and middle class citizens when Ike brought the cameras into the death camps. This awareness was seen as very important and passed on to the children of this generation- the boomers- but mostly through anti-Soviet propaganda-education.

Of course we went on to win the cold war, but we also underwent a huge shift in the nature of societal thought with the advent of television (and now the net.) It is very difficult to gauge the magnitude of this shift, but its impact can be described.

We think in more segemented packets, jump cuts and loose associative themes that stretch across many topics without permeating into the waking awareness except in terms of glib references and in-jokes. (Knowledge of this dynamic is how Repugs win elections.) Deliberative intelligence, while perhaps never widespread within the populace, has now become even less common. The basic dynamic of an idea or fact having broad reaching implications is now wholly and entirely lost on huge swaths of our culture. Philosophy or its imports is at this point, if not exactly impossible, categorically very limited in scope. And torture is something that has nothing to do with the suburbs and sounds as if it should help us win. What once set us apart has to do with another era, like watching M.A.S.H. in a Desperate Housewives age.

Let loose not the hounds, but the pigs.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Torture and the Gorgon

Our crunchy brains open and reveal digusting movements.

We have never been more civilized then our worst impulse, and historically, cultures of great refinement condone behaviors of great cruelty.
You are not guilty, we are all merely alive, fighting gravity to remain on two legs.
Never expect tolerance that a person has not had taught from a young age or else earned through pivotal experiences of their own.
Most people fear and avoid pivotal experiences without ever knowing why they do so.

Movement, movement stimulates your prolonged presence on the indifferent couch.
Exercising judgements of taste is not participating in Democracy.
Cultivating refinement is not participating in Democracy.
Nothing you do is participating in Democracy, Democracy is a myth, a gentle fable we exercise at our peril.

Lift your mind up and move with a purposeful heart.
Only engaging a dream worthy of dreaming is daring enough.
You are only risking your trembling, weaker than you think foundations.
Breathing with your whole face is participating in Reality.
Buildings come and go, but our simple breathing moves us far beyond this time.
Society's various shapes today and tomorrow are built on the smallest currents of Reality breathing.

Where do you place your weight?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

real steps and waiting

Since Fitzmas we have seen the blogosphere enter a new phase of realating to the cultural drama. We know now that the occurrance of real events has its own momentum and its own reality.

The commentators aren't out of the game of course, but they are newly aware of their own secondariness.

There will be new days of excitement and pupose, and there will be more events that our rogue's gallery of pseudonymous heroes will be important to. For now, however, there is a sense of quietude on the steppes: We have skirmished and come out well, but was it us who did the damage? The post-modern partisan can rarely answer the question, and if anyhting this case typifies the general uncertainty.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

da Vinci's Revenge

So ah, basically, the Catholics are defending evolution from the the fundamentalists...

Get real here, people. The Catholics wish it was 1300 A.D. really bad. If they're telling you to get with it, you've got problems.

Mathew Gross has a post up about Jimmy Carter's values book & speech. I was moved to comment and in doing so figured I had more to say about the subject than would rightly fit in a comments section.

What I wrote there was that the values of this country have shifted over a long time. To wit, over the 20th century:

-Industrialists established monopolies.

-WWII boosted fortunes mostly of least scrupulous within social institutions.

-Advertising strategies and mass media plus 1990's "conservative" putsch= PR/media groupthink that formally enshrines dominance as virtue.

Beyond this I would like to add that this seems like a typical shift of values within an empire. Of course as force becomes more and more the mode of shaping external relations of a culture the more it will be found as a value within that culture as well.

What we have today is a culture where winning is seen to be a value unto itself. By my lights this really does stretch back to the early 20th c. industrialists. There were social upheavals relating to what was a relatively explicit shift in values at the time, culminating with the turbulent 1930's. WWII did not so much cure the ills of the depression, however, as it reestablished the social order based on force and dominance that had been emerging prior to the depression.

Now, after Monica and Florida 2000, there is little other than winning available to appeal to. And frankly, other than a few isolated incidences of outcry (e.g. "greatest gen" highbrow types on TV after Abu Ghraib) there has been no clear enunciation of these values. And that doesn't count for much.

In fact, there has been very little in the way of any clear enunciation of classical liberal values within popular culture for a very long time. And check it, it has to be within popular culture, because as long as we still vote for our leaders, that's where the values approved by our elections are going to be first established.

I think that these values were strongly reinforced within our educational system after the horrors of WWII drove many to question some long held assumptions about human nature, but since then there've been some problems: Free Love, 1970's revolutionaries and the earnest, disasterous attempt in the late 80's to codify cultural respect known as Political Correctness. And for each of these movements, the power elite became more alarmed and antagonistic towards classical libreral values.

This antagonism has been expressed in many ways, but mostly it has been within the sphere of politics and public rhetoric. As anyone who has read this report knows, there has been a great deal of energy put into dominating rhetoric, and in order to reinforce , but also to rationalize that dominance, dominance itself has had to be glorified.

Of course this is only part of a larger trend. Americans love football and basketball today, not baseball. But it is the ground we are standing on. If today's politicians want to approach this issue... well, I think it will be difficult, but first they will have to win some battles (Alito), no matter how they do it because if they don't, they will have no social standing with which to present the worth of their ideas.

Note: This post has been edited and lengthened for clarity.